Juneteenth was Different this Year
I made a decision.
Here’s a very brief summary of the last ten-ish of my life leading up to Juneteenth. If you don’t feel like reading, the summary of this summary is as follows: don’t settle, take chances, chase freedom.
Summer 2010: lived in Cincinnati doing an internship with GE. This was the summer after my fourth year of college, and before my final semester to finish my double major.
Fall 2010: Accepted full time role with GE in a rotational “sales and marketing” program. I took it because I was excited about having a career in marketing. The program ended up being pretty much all sales and no marketing :-(
Summer 2013: Got laid off from my role as a sales manager with GE. They had just created a new team called Commercial Operations (which had even less to do with marketing). They offered me a role on this new team and I took it. Because…I needed a job.
Fall 2013: Realized that there was no path for me to ever do the work I wanted to do (creative marketing) at GE. Also realized that all the marketing roles I had been looking at with other companies required 5 years of marketing experience (which I didn’t have) or an MBA. So I started visiting business schools.
I applied to Goizueta’s (Emory’s) diversity weekend which is a two day experience where prospective students come check out the school and meet some of their potential classmates. I was accepted, went, and knew then that b-school was the move and that Goizueta was where I wanted to be.
Winter 2013: Applied to MLT (a prep program for minorities seeking higher education in business school), and was accepted.
Spent most of 2014 going to conferences, meeting admissions officers, and taking the GMAT over and over, getting mediocre scores.
January 2015: submitted applications to Emory, Michigan, Duke, Northwestern, and Indiana.
March 2015: While in Dubai with friends celebrating my birthday, I received notice that I was admitted to Emory! 🎉 Despite my “just ok” GMAT scores, they were impressed with my leadership roles, volunteer work, and work experience (go figure). I got denied at Northwestern, waitlisted at Michigan, and was admitted into Indiana and Duke. Emory was my first choice.
Summer 2015: Left my job at GE and started business school and what would become two of the best years of my life. Met life long friends, traveled to 13 different countries, and had countless experiences that I’ll never forget. Also interviewed for internships and was extended offers from some great companies (including Coca Cola, which was my dream company and a large part of the reason I came to Emory), but I turned them all down because they weren’t the best fit for what I wanted to do (who just turns down job offers when you’re unemployed? Me. I do.)
Spring 2016: First year of b-school is wrapping up. While all of my classmates were preparing to start their summer internships, I was one of only a handful who didn’t have an internship (because I had turned them all down). School had ended for the year, so the door was pretty much closed on finding internship. They were all filled (or so I thought). I decided I was just gonna do some volunteering/consulting and photography over the summer, making barely any money, while everybody else went off to their internships and made what would amount on aggregate to 6 figure salaries. A company called TIAA randomly called me in April. I wasn’t interested. It was a finance company. I spoke to the HR person who called me. She asked me what type of work I wanted to do. I told her digital marketing, with emphasis on data. They essentially created a role for me, and offered me more money than all of the internships I had turned down (Look @ gawd). The job was in NYC. Now, I’m really gambling here. Remember school is out, and it’s April. This is more than likely my last shot at getting an internship. But I called her back and told her, while I appreciated the offer, I didn’t want to move to NYC. She told me that if I accepted the offer they would allow me to work remotely from Atlanta (this is very uncommon). So I accepted. I spent the summer working for TIAA during the day, and then at night I’d go to Atlanta Tech Village and work with a startup called Uproar doing some other digital and social stuff.
Summer 2016: I reached out to an Emory alum, who, at the time, was leading a division of Turner Sports. I reached out to him letting him know that I was finishing up my internship for the summer, and was hoping to secure some project work with Turner Sports during the school year. I expected to do it for free. I just wanted the experience. This alum ended up offering me a PAID position instead. I was working on product sponsorships for NBA Digital (a joint venture between the NBA and Turner). I helped launch a new mobile game, tested VR products, and a bunch of other cool stuff.
Fall 2016: TIAA (the company I interned with) reached out and offered both a second internship for my final semester of business school, AND a full time offer for when I graduated. I turned them both down. I wasn’t interested in the work. NBA Digital offered to extend my internship into my final semester. I accepted. I was interested in the work.
Spring 2017: A repeat of last spring, all my friends are preparing to start their careers in the full time jobs they had accepted, and I still don’t have one because I had been super selective and turned down the offers that I received. School is almost out, internship is almost over, and refund check money is almost gone. I guess I should start applying for full time jobs. A bunch of my classmates are asking me if I’m nervous about not having a job. Nah. I always end up where I’m supposed to be.
I was interested in continuing at NBA Digital. Several managers there said they would love to keep me, but there were no open positions that were a good fit. My direct manager, though, agreed to send my resume around to other Turner businesses to see if there was interest. I ended up securing an interview with CNN. It was for a product manager role on messaging apps (Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, etc.) I take the first interview. Kill it. Now we play the waiting game. Meanwhile, there’s a career fair for Emory students who don’t have full time jobs yet. I went and met another Emory alum who was working for Amazon. He had a marketing analytics role open (which almost perfectly matched my interests at the time). We had a quick phone chat later that week, and they scheduled me for an on-site interview the following week. Kill it. Got the offer. Now, I’m torn between accepting this role, and not pursuing the CNN role any further, OR, holding out to see what CNN has to offer. I was extended a second interview with CNN, kill it, and then was told that they’d like to move me on to the next round of interviews. Amazon is, rightfully so, like “come on bro, are you accepting or not?” I ultimately decided that the Amazon role was a better fit, and removed myself from contention for the CNN role. So now the honey moon is over. No more traveling to a new country every month and waking up in the morning and deciding if I want to go to class. I’m a working adult again, and I have to do this until I’m 60 something and ready to retire, right?
The following week I head out west for a few days. I was going to San Fran for Facebook’s F8 conference to do some networking (this was planned before I got the Amazon gig). I stopped in LA for a couple days before heading to SF just to visit the city and hang with some friends. A friend of a friend who played professional basketball overseas mentioned that he’d been renting his car out while he was out of the country to make a little bit of extra cash. I was intrigued at the idea, and mentioned it to Max when I got back to Atlanta. I knew Max was a hustler, like me, and thought he’d have some good insight on the viability of trying this idea in Atlanta.
June 14, 2017: Max and I pulled some funds together and bought a cheap car to test out what might happen if we rented it in the Atlanta market.
June 19, 2017: My first day at Amazon (remember the date).
August 19, 2017: We got our first renter!
October 22, 2017: We bought our second car! It’s lit!
November 9, 2017: Before we could rent out our second car, our renter of our first car was involved in an accident. The car was totaled. 😔
Fortunately nobody was injured, the other driver was at fault, and we actually made money on the car after the insurance claim was processed. But we still freaked out a little bit because of how it COULD HAVE gone. Somebody could have been seriously injured and even died, and our business could have been implicated had our driver been at fault (at least we assumed that to be a risk). So we paused the business to make sure all of our ducks were in a row.
October 16, 2018: We started the business again, and finally rented our second car, for the first time, almost a whole YEAR after we first purchased it.
April 2019: The business is really growing. We had grown to 5 cars by end the of December. 10 cars by mid-February. 15 cars by early April. Wow! This is really working! At this point I’m really considering leaving my job to do this full time. Max had already taken a leave of absence from his, and I’m starting to feel like we could really grow this thing if we both spent the time to nurture it. I had started telling myself that in about a year, I’d consider quitting. April 2020 was the plan.
Early May 2019: But what if I quit earlier? Ehh….let’s go for December. I’ll hold on til’ December then I’m out. I could save a few more checks, get through the Thanksgiving holiday, then I’ll quit. Cool. December. Yup. December it is.
Late May 2019:
Me: But why December? What are you really waiting for?
Other Me: Idk, save a little more money.
Me: Ok...but what if you spent all your time on your business instead? Couldn’t you make even more money?
Other Me: But what if you don’t make more money? What if you go broke?
Me: Then get another job, stupid! What if the laws change before December and you can’t rent cars anymore? What if there’s somebody else in Atlanta doing your exact same business who’ll capture the whole market by December? What if you don’t take a chance, and one day wake up and you’re 60 something sitting in a blandly decorated cubicle in a desolate office park wondering what would have happened had you went for it? Just do it. Do it now. Jobs will always be there. You’re smart. If it doesn’t work out, you will certainly be able to get another job. But make that shit work out tho.
Other Me: Damn. You kinda have a point.
June 19, 2019: It’s Juneteenth (Google it if you’re not familiar). It’s a day that represents freedom. Before I went to work that day, I went and bought a Juneteenth shirt from Support Black Colleges (the shirt I’m wearing in the cover photo). It was important that I get it and wear it today. It was symbolic to me. I really wanted today to be about freedom.
Freedom is my ultimate goal in life. To me that means little to no fear, minimal dependencies, and fluidity. I want financial freedom, spiritual freedom, emotional freedom, and whatever other freedoms there are. I want to be able to control my own time and energy and do the things that I want to do trusting that my moral compass will lead me in the right direction.
I got to work a little bit later than normal because of running to grab the shirt. I sat down at my desk when I got there and did a little bit of work. Then I walked down to the HR office and told the HR leader that I was resigning. All day I had waited for “Other Me” to try talking the “Me” out of leaving my job, but it never happened. It just felt like the right thing to do, and it felt like now was the right time to do it. So I did it. And I felt free. This day, June 19th, also happened to make exactly two years to the day since I had started at Amazon.
I finished the work day, went to City of Ink, and got a tattoo to commemorate the day in line with the general theme of the day. FREE.
July 3, 2019: My last day of work. Oddly on the eve of “independence” day (Juneteenth is my independence day). Nonetheless, a day that will be marked in my personal march toward “freedom” by my own definition. A goal that I’ll chase until I die knowing I’ll never catch it. I don’t think one can ever be COMPLETELY free. Completely fearless and fluid, or have NO dependencies. But I’m going to continue chasing. Knowing that even in falling short I’ll still be growing perpetually more FREE forever.